With an attention span less than that of a goldfish, it’s no surprise that most of us don’t fully read all copy on a page anymore. This makes it very difficult to write engaging copies as only around 15% people read everything word-by-word. If the readers are unable to understand your content easily, it’s very unlikely that they’ll convert.
This is where readability can play an important role as high site readability increases the chances of conversion. But how do we improve readability? That’s exactly what this post is all about so let’s get started with the basics before moving on to more details.
What is Readability?
Readability is one of the three main barriers to writing engaging content (legibility and comprehension are the other two). Legibility is the typography and clarity of visual design. Comprehension helps readers draw valid conclusions and makes it easier for users to understand the copy. Readability is about sentence structure and complexity of words. In other words, readability is how you transform your ideas into writing.
How to Improve Website Readability?
While it might not be possible to quantify readability with 100% accuracy, we do have standardized tools that help us determine readability to a great extent. Readability tests are designed to calculate the complexity of sentence structure and words and represent grade levels by a numerical score. The grade level or score help determine how easy or difficult a copy is to read and understand.
For example, the average in the US is 7th-8th grade level. This means most people can easily read and understand content written keeping 11-13 year olds in mind. Some of the most widely used readability tests include:
- Flesch-Kincaid Tests
- Gunning Fog
- Fry Graph
- Automated Readability Index
It’s a good idea to evaluate content using multiple tests for better accuracy. Most of these readability tests are free, while some providers offer paid services that include advanced features and testing.
Speak Language of the Target Audience
Understanding the target audience plays a pivotal role in writing engaging copies. Using words that the readers can relate to and are familiar with requires giving some thought to the target audience. The text should be in-line with their educational background and culture. If you are not writing for medical and engineering journals, it’s better to stick with a readability level suitable for 7th-8th graders.
Keep it Simple, yet Interesting
The intended consequence of web content is to create a lasting impression that improves conversion. This can be achieved by keeping it simple, yet interesting, whether using fun facts or surprising data. The text should include statistics, specific numbers and concrete evidence to prove your point, making it more credible. Presenting information as stories helps as they stick to users, but it depends on the type of content being written. A rational approach might be a better option in many situations.
Use Images to Grab Attention
Relevant images are not only emotionally appealing, they also help in storytelling and shift readers’ attention to the text. Image captions are equally important as they are read a lot more than the copy itself and have a much better recall rate.
Text hierarchy and contrasting text improves typography and makes it easier to scan through the text. Some tips for improving typography include:
- Use contrasting text colors, should distinctly appear against the background
- Use headings, sub-headings and bullet points to improve structure
- Using 16-pixels font makes it easier for readers to read the text (from an average distance of 28-inches from the display)
- Use cleaner fonts that improve legibility without challenging site readability such as Sans Serif fonts
- Line-length should ideally decrease as readers scroll down the page, 45-75 characters length is considered the optimum range
- Avoid using line height that’s too short as it can exhaust readers’ eyes
Keep Readers’ Comprehension Level in Mind
Sentences with bigger implications require higher comprehension levels and might not be suitable for the masses. The text should not only be readable, but also easily understandable. Tests like the Cloze Test can help understand the comprehension level by getting feedback from the readers.
Make a Point Quickly
Readers start making Cost and Benefit Analysis as soon as they start reading the content. The cost here is the time and effort required in going through the text. The benefit is the solution or useful information that can extract from it. They continue reading it if the perceived benefit easily outweighs the cost otherwise they’ll simply hit the back button.
One way of engaging them is to make your point in the beginning and continue to explaining the specifics. Known as Inverted Pyramid copywriting, many big companies like Apple use this technique to present the main points in the beginning, which helps users decide if they should go into the details. Use headings, contextual headings and primary keywords in bold, making it easier to scan the copy.
Another method known as the APP method is generally used in content-heavy pages and business blogs. It involves dedicating the beginning to building common grounds or something users agree to. This assures the reader that the remaining text has something of value and can solve their problem.
The font size should be 14-16 pixels, making it easier for readers to read the text from a distance
Line height represents the distance between two adjacent lines. The more the distance, the easier it becomes to read the text. 24 pixels is considered the optimal height
The narrower the line length, the easier it is to read. The line length should ideally decrease as the readers scroll down
Use contrasting text colors distinctly visible against the background
Break text apart using bullet points, especially lists such as specifications, key features, pros and cons and so on
A sub-headline after every two or three paragraphs makes the text easier to read and helps break down the pattern. Sub-headlines should be bold and use a slightly larger font than rest of the text. This works great for skimmers who don’t like to read all the text and focus on key points. They should at least be able to get the main points by skimming through headings and sub-headings.
Sentence Length and Paragraphs
Keep sentences short and start a new paragraph every after every 3-4 lines. Large chunks of text are difficult to digest. Breaking large chunks down into paragraphs with an empty line between them improves readability and makes it easier to digest information. Images can also be used to break down the text pattern. Our brains are hard-wired to process visual information much faster than written words.
With our ever-decreasing attention spans, we rarely read the whole text with purpose. A readable copy makes it easier for readers to extract the information they are looking for. However, it can become a challenging task as not all readers have the same reading and comprehension level.
Understanding the target audience is the key here as it helps a lot in creating content they can relate to. Site readability directly impacts conversion rates. Dedicating some time and effort into improving readability can help a lot in increasing conversion rates and offering something of value to the readers.